Purpose and Aims

The purpose of the Living Archives project is to research, analyze and prototype how archives for public cultural heritage can become a significant social resource, creating social change, cultural awareness and collective collaboration pointing towards a shared future of a society.

Today most archives have been digitized or at least partly digitized, but many of them are still dormant and inaccessible to the broad spectra of citizens. Revitalizing public archives into living social resources implies shedding the conception that they are the dormant and disembodied narratives of a dominant culture. With the Living Archives project, we shake the digital dust off archives and open the process of archiving so that it embraces contemporary practices associated with open data, social networking, mobile media, storytelling, gaming, and performance. The purpose is both to see how public cultural heritage can become a significant social resource, creating social change, and how archival practices outside institutions can be facilitated, performed and valued.

WHAT IS ARCHIVED? WHO DOES THE ARCHIVING? – Archiving is not just located in the past, it occurs in the present, and it impacts the future. As such, archiving faces the same general problems as knowledge circulation: call it narrowing or “shallowing”, to adapt Nicholas Carr’s popular term “The Shallows” (Carr 2010). We know that search engines serve as amplifiers of popularity, continually reinforcing a consensus about what information is important and what is not. Digital information that is marginal, unusual, or even simply associated with atypical keywords is left out of the wave of what constitutes knowledge. If we replace knowledge with archives in the previous sentence, then there is a risk that cultural memory becomes narrower, both in terms of accessing what already exists but also what is being generated now. The purpose of this project is not just to open up dormant archives, but to address the wider problems of a narrowing of content (what is archived?) and an narrowing of inclusion (who does the archiving?)

ARCHIVES AND PRACTICES OF ARCHIVING – We aim to address challenges facing the Digitized Society through the phenomena of archives and the practices of archiving. We approach archives and archiving through Performing Memory and Open Data with a collaborative and multidisciplinary team of researchers. Our researchers contribute knowledge and methodologies from the fields of History, Artistic Research, Interaction Design, Computer Science and Cultural and Critical Theory.

Our specific aims are:

  • to explore the potentials of public digitized archives;
  • to view archive material (photographs, film/video, audio, text) as interactive social resources in the present;
  • to utilize the power of the collaborative media landscape by exploring how the gathering of live data can become instant archives as people move through geographical contexts;
  • to revitalize the co-production of shared public memory;
  • to explore how open data can become meaningful to specific communities of practice;
  • to foster a performative approach emphasizing the embodied and personal qualities of archiving as a living practice;
  • to create design activities, dedicated to exploring, prototyping and testing relevant possibilities for future digital archives.

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